5 things to know about Group A of Champions League
22 October 2013, 14:17
Manchester, England - As Manchester United tries to reach the knockout round of the Champions League, there are already signs that the team might not be back in the competition next season.
The Premier League season is only eight games old, and the champions are eight points adrift of leader Arsenal in eighth place.
The gap to fourth-place Manchester City is only five points, but the gulf in quality between United and the early front-runners has been clear to see.
United is leading the way in Europe, but is only in first place in Group A because it has scored more goals than Shakhtar Donetsk in the first two games.
On Wednesday as United hosts Real Sociedad, Shakhtar is at Bayer Leverkusen. Here are five things to know about those matches.
United manager David Moyes is trying to calm any anxieties at Old Trafford after the club's worst start since the 1989-90 campaign.
Could United fail to finish in the top four?
"The players here are good enough," Moyes responded. "The end of the season is when you have to be in your best form. Over the years Manchester United have been slow starters quite often. We have been a little bit slow at the start again but hopefully that will improve ... we will pick ourselves up."
Against Sociedad, Moyes could be without central defenders Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, who both missed Saturday's 1-1 home draw with Southampton.
Vidic has a calf injury, and Ferdinand has been troubled by groin problems.
Sociedad is without a point in Group A, having lost both matches so far.
There is, however, renewed belief within the team after an eight-game winless run in all competitions ended on Saturday. A 2-1 victory at Valencia was secured by Antoine Griezmann's goals.
"We will analyze what we did well last Saturday and look to repeat that," Griezmann said.
Sociedad captain Xavi Prieto is back in the midfield after returning from injury on Saturday, just in time to attempt to keep alive the team's Champions League hopes.
"It's almost a do-or-die match," Prieto said. "A defeat would complicate things for us a lot, so we have to get a good result to stay alive."
OLD TRAFFORD FANS
Sociedad playmaker Xabi Prieto will be hoping to play at Old Trafford after growing up as a United fan.
"They are a mythical club, one of the biggest in the world, and the stadium has always really attracted me as well," Prieto told the BBC. "Lots of people are traveling to help the team."
As for the home fans, they will be experimenting with a singing section in an attempt to improve the Old Trafford atmosphere.
FAIR PLAY PROBLEMS
Shakhtar and Bayer Leverkusen have something in common - irritating opponents with their goal-scoring exploits.
Luiz Adriano scored for Shakhtar against Nordsjaelland in last season's Champions League when their opponents were expected to regain possession following an injury break. With several other players, Adriano then refused to let Nordsjaelland equalize.
Fast forward to Friday and Stefan Kiessling claimed a goal in Leverkusen's 2-1 win over Hoffenheim despite his header hitting the side netting and rolling into the goal through a hole.
Kiessling apologized after the game, which could be replayed.